Judit Varga – Photo: BZT / Nóra Halász

Justice minister: Hungary judiciary attentive to ECtHR practices

Hungary's judiciary gives proper consideration to criteria set out by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Justice Minister Judit Varga told a conference in Budapest on Friday.

Hungarian judges are aware of and well prepared when it comes to the characteristics of the Strasbourg court, Varga told the conference on the implementation of the legal practices of the ECtHR in Hungary’s judicial system. She said Hungary’s system of procedural norms helped keep judges up to date on the Strasbourg court’s practices.

If the Hungarian judiciary acts appropriately, it means fewer cases will be referred to the ECtHR, the minister said. She pointed out as an example that there had been 1,406 pending cases against Hungary before the court in 2009, which later increased to 8,962 but was reduced to just 516 by Jan 1, 2021. Thanks to the government’s efforts, Hungary is no longer among the countries with the most ECtHR cases, Varga added.

Varga said Hungary took an active role in the process of improving the implementation of verdicts.

She said compliance with the criteria set out by the Strasbourg court was an important factor when it came to drafting legislation in Hungary, and that both regular courts and the Constitutional Court were increasingly using the ECtHR’s legal practices as points of reference.

The minister added, at the same time, that it was important that the court’s decisions were “clear and consistent, and shouldn’t go beyond the given state’s commitments stemming from international treaties”. The ECtHR’s function is to interpret the provisions laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights and to ensure the enforcement of human rights norms, Varga said, adding that this needed to be in balance with the sovereignty and human rights obligations of the Council of Europe’s member states.

As regards ECtHR rulings Hungary has complied with through legislative action, Varga mentioned the issue of prison overcrowding and the administrative backlog of lawsuits. Hungary made room for legal remedy in the case of poor prison conditions in 2017 and will do the same when it comes to the duration of court proceedings from Jan 2022, she said.

ECtHR judge Peter Paczolay said there were eight so-called impact cases pending against Hungary on issues including real-life sentences, the treatment of migrants and gender reassignment.

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